House finally passes Sandy package
'No' on Sandy aid imperils Fla.
In June 2012, after Tropical Storm Debby, my congressional representative, Gus Bilirakis, posted a message on his website telling Floridians to contact the Florida Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration, which would "explain disaster assistance programs and help survivors apply for aid."
On Jan. 15, he voted "no" when the House of Representative passed a $51 billion bill to give aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, New York and surrounding areas. (All the Democratic representatives from Florida voted for the bill; only three Republican representatives from Florida — C.W. Bill Young, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — voted for it.)
I would like to ask Bilirakis and the other Florida Republicans who voted "no" what their plans are for getting aid for Florida the next time we are struck by a hurricane or tropical storm. Where do they think the money for that aid comes from? Do they expect the representatives and citizens from the Northeast to forget this vote? Are they planning to be consistent and vote "no" on aid to Florida? If so, why do we keep them in office?
John Kroll, Tarpon Springs
Security ideas rejected | Jan. 16
Religion has no bearing
I was astonished to read that Hillsborough School Board member Stacy White, at the board meeting concerning adding armed security guards to elementary schools, actually said, "We should also introduce the children of this nation to the house of the Lord."
Does he not realize how offensive that statement is to the millions of nonreligious and non-Christian Americans in this country and the tens of thousands in Hillsborough County? By saying kids need Jesus in their lives he is implying that non-Christians are more prone to violence or that Jesus somehow makes people less violent.
Adam Lanza, the shooter in Newtown Conn., went to a Catholic school. He was obviously "introduced to the house of the Lord," but that didn't keep him from shooting kids.
White's statement was ignorant and offensive. Religion is not the answer to school shootings. Stricter gun control laws and better mental health counseling for troubled teens would be far more effective, according to scientists and experts on this issue.
Ryan Cragun, Tampa
Health workers movers for day | Jan. 15
A far weightier matter
It is revealing to see that the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau showed more interest in a cost-saving employee move at the Tallahassee central office than in our department's key initiative to improve the health of all Floridians. On Monday, the department hosted its second Surgeon General Symposium in Central Florida, with a critical discussion on how our state can improve health and reduce health care costs by helping individuals achieve their healthiest weight.
The department will save $750,000 annually by consolidating our office space and providing a work environment that aligns program offices across our reorganized department. The much larger issue that will impact our population, though, is the ever-growing weight challenge across Florida.
In Florida, one in four high school students and 65 percent of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. The number of obese adults is on course to escalate dramatically in Florida over the next 20 years, and the toll from chronic weight-related diseases on personal livelihood and lifestyle is unacceptable. In the next two decades without change, obesity will add more than 2 million new cases of diabetes, 6 million new cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, 5 million new cases of hypertension, 3 million new cases of arthritis, and nearly 9 million new cases of obesity-related cancers in Florida.
This is a complex issue that requires a combined effort. The symposium served as an outlet for open conversation to gain community input and feedback from leaders in the health care field. We remain committed to continuing the healthiest weight conversation across Florida so that we become the healthiest state in the nation.
Dr. John Armstrong, surgeon general and secretary of health, Tallahassee
Scott disavows role in law cited for poll chaos | Jan. 16
Civics refresher is in order
Apparently Gov. Rick Scott should take time to attend one of the civics classes required by a Florida legislative mandate. Even my civics students know that the governor could have vetoed the bill. That's called checks and balances in our system of separation of power.
Kay Sanford, Dunedin
Scott's absurd response
Gov. Scott's recent response to the 2012 election debacle here in Florida in November is absurd. He obviously doesn't understand the three branches of government after two years in office. His response that he basically had nothing to do with it is crazy. His signature on that law caused the voting debacle to happen.
He chose not to veto it, and he made no attempt to change it. When the 2011 election law was being debated, there were numerous calls by the electorate, newspapers and others that wanted this law changed and even vetoed. Scott and the Republicans refused to back down, which was an obvious attempt to suppress voter turnout. If this guy wins re-election, Florida is doomed. One-party rule does not work.
Jim Steinle, Clearwater
Where's Gov. Scott's dog? | Jan. 15
Kudos for trying
I am appalled by the unjust, undeserved and relentless criticism of Gov. Rick Scott levied on him by the media and others regarding nearly everything he does, including his adoption of the Labrador he had to return to its former owner. Rescued animals often have behavioral issues because of abuse they suffered with prior owners. These issues can make them unsuitable for some families.
Scott is to be commended for realizing the Lab was not a suitable "fit" for his family. I wish the governor success in his second effort to adopt a rescued dog.
If Scott were a liberal politician, the press would have ignored this evolving story.
Anyone who adopts a rescued dog or cat should be commended even if one's first effort is unsuccessful through no fault of the adoptive family. Rescued pets not adopted are often euthanized due to lack of space at shelters. Scott and the Lab (now living on a ranch) as well as his second dog are all winners.
Claudia Vester-Hawthorne, Clearwater